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Monday, May 6, 2013

That Liam horse - Chapter one - The end is the beginning is the end


Ok……where do I start???? My roommate and I were renting a house in Rotterdam NY. I had been the maintenance manager for a tennis and multi-sport company. They had clubs all over Long Island. After leaving my club in Schenectady NY I had been offered an amazing opportunity. 

It had now been three months since I started travelling all over Long Island doing construction for the owner. I was tired but I loved the work. I loved the owner too. When he offered me a overnight position at his premier club......how could I refuse???? I packed up my duffel bag and hopped the train to the city to try and find an apartment. I found a tiny studio in Queens and I would start working on Randall’s Island NY the next day.

Fast forward three more months........

I HATED everything about the city. It seemed that everyone had a game to play. Everyone had a hustle. The most heartbreaking thing is that almost everyone seemed to be out for themselves. I either ran to work and back to my studio or I rode my bike. After being pick pocketed groped and just otherwise creeped by every experience on either the subway or the bus I decided it would just be easier this way. 

( quick history lesson)

Growing up I had the most amazing parents. They were good people. They sacrificed so much to give me and my sister the good life. For some odd reason I decided to spit in their faces around age 16. That's when the drugs started. It only got worse as the years went by. Waiting tables and bartending only gave me quick cash and ample opportunity to acquire more and more drugs and alcohol. The substance abuse only got worse. The chemicals only got stronger. After switching restaurants I soon discovered that no one did cocaine here. There was only methamphetamine. So........when in Rome.........SNORT IT ALL.

Fast forward a couple very painful years.......since moving up to New York State I had seemed to yet again put my monsters to sleep. A little less than two years later it's slumber would be short lived. Now being on my own.....The readily available array of drugs and lack of the watchful eye of my roommate back in Rotterdam made life complicated. The drug and alcohol abuse peaked and I had given the monster the wheel..........again. Why was sobriety so hard??? Why did one beer have to turn into six and more which would then lead to whatever drug I could find?????? Why was it so easy for others to not take it to the point of passing out. Why couldn't I just enjoy a couple beers and stay away from drugs????

Things started happening that made it seem as if I would be going back home to TX. I made a trip to see my family and everything pointed to me coming back home. 

While in TX I was searching Craigslist for jobs in the Houston area. After a very lengthy search I switched my area back to Albany. The very first posting to pop up was HORSE FARM HELP NEEDED. I did not even hesitate I just picked up the phone and called the number. I left a message and one of the owners called back within the hour. We talked and the job seemed amazing. She was not too comfortable with the fact that I had never worked with horses before. I told her I was currently in Texas and that I would be flying back to LaGuardia airport and that I could hop the train and make my way to Princetown NY for the interview. She agreed and I somehow managed to hold my happy dance until the call had been disconnected.
I however......did not disclose the fact that if given this job I would only have it for a short time because I was moving back home.

I flew back to NYC got in at 3 am caught the subway to my apartment dropped off my bags took the train from Penn station to Albany drove to Princetown had my interview at 9am. I saw the upper barn that I would be taking care of in addition to feeding both upper and lower barns. I met most of the horses. They were amazing. The smell that hit you in the face a quarter of a mile away.....I hate to admit but I i actually liked it.

With the conclusion of the interview I took the train back to Penn station and went to work my overnight shift……..boy was I tired.

I made it very clear with my current job that I was leaving. Gave my notice and began to pack up. A week later I got a call from the stables. I GOT THE JOB EEEEEEEEEEE. I packed up everything I had in Queens and was in Penn station waiting for my train to Albany when I got the call…….at the last moment she had given my barn to someone else. She said she felt so sorry for him that she had to. 

My heart sank. 

I was devastated. 

I was on my 28th hour with no sleep with my all bags waiting on a train that was an hour out. I began to just cry. I held back the words I really wanted to say to her. I wished them success with their chosen employee and ended the call. The trip to Albany was a dark one. 

Once home I continued making arrangements to go home and looking for jobs down south. One week later I got a call from the stables. Very unexpectedly the gentlemen that took care of the other barn gave notice. I was given the job cleaning and caring for the lower barn. 

I LOVED IT. I didn’t even mind the 12 mile bike ride. I loved every aspect of the job. 

A couple weeks into having this job news started flying around the barn about this thoroughbred coming back to live at the stables. The stable owners could only talk about what amazing dressage horse and fantastic mover he was. He had apparently been a racehorse as well. Some of the boarders could only mention how he was indeed a nice looking horse but that he was crazy. 

I didn’t really give it much thought. All I knew is that I’d be preparing a stall in my barn for this Liam horse that would arrive after I had left that day.

I remember coming in and seeing the dark bay thoroughbred the next day. He looked thin. None of the other horses had all their ribs showing and those ghastly looking hip bones sticking out. His skin hung on him and his coat was dirty and dull. He had cuts and scabs all over his head neck and shoulders.

Having no prior horse experience I had no clue I was looking at an emaciated horse. All I really knew is that he had no personality. No sparkle in his eye like every other horse had. He faced the back of his stall with his head hanging most of the time.

Everyone that knew this Liam horse before he left the stables could not wait to see him. There was so much action at his stall that day. I noticed that almost everyone commented on his weight. The stable owners were very disappointed with his condition. One of the owners remarked if she had known his condition she wouldn’t have paid a dollar for him. What were they going to do with this creature?

The following days his stall was the place to visit for everyone. His equine neighbors glued their faces to the bars longing for the attention that was being given to this new horse. Not understanding everyone’s fascination with this horse but seeing his neighbors being snubbed made me slightly angry. 

I made it my mission to ignore that Liam horse and give all my attention to the horses being overlooked. I made my interaction with him short and sweet. It was easy too because he offered no sign a personality and nothing that would make me like him. 

Less than a week like this my ignoring him..........backfired. I noticed that the owner started doing the same. The young girls that wanted to see him so badly before now didn’t really care about his presence. I was confused and didn’t understand. All I knew is that now this critter didn’t have any attention. 

Sigh. 

So the shift happened. I gave him all the attention I could. The owners didn’t want him turned out for fear of being reported. His condition was still so bad and being reported by the neighbors was too much of a risk for them. 

I placed his ground feeder outside the barn doors and every trip I made to turn out or bring a horse I would pick grass and clovers and dandelions and place it in the bowl. When I was done cleaning my stalls I would give him his bowl. I would watch him devour it. Looking back at how bad he was and what little knowledge I had I’m really glad he never got sick. I loved watching him eat. I quickly realized that even being so broken spirited and skinny that Liam horse could be picky. I soon learned that the dandelion flowers were his favorite.

The following weeks the stable owners said he gained a couple hundred pounds and was suitable for public observation. :) The Liam horse could be turned out. 

He offered no resistance and no struggle turning him out or bringing him back in. Life in his stall was a different matter completely. He would charge you as you entered his stall and he had quite a bit of food aggression but we were working through that. 

Over hearing the struggles of the owners not being able to sell him or use him for lessons I was overcome with a sense of urgency to offer something…..anything to make his stay here a reality. I very timidly approached the owners about leasing him. 

I told them that when I looked at him I had an overwhelming sense of sadness. That every time I entered his stall ......after working through the whole him trying to destroy me….he seemed to search. I noticed his interactions with other people and he was indeed searching every single person for something. I had no clue what he was looking for but I told the owners that he seemed broken. He seemed to be missing a vital piece of himself. I had a suspicion that it was this piece he was searching for. I told them that I wasn’t sure if I had what he needed but that I wanted to try.

My heart sank and I was devastated to hear the following words come out of her mouth…….NO. Definitely NOT! He is not a beginner’s horse. That he was an A+ horse with the proper weight and that their intention was resale and that I would never be able to ride him. I was appalled. It was like she didn’t even listen to me. I very indignantly pointed out that if she had just listened she would have heard my heart. I did not want to crawl up on his back I wanted to offer my money and time into helping a broken soul heal. I wanted to put the time in that no other person was putting in. I spent the most time with him and I wanted to continue to do that. 

After a war of words it was finalized. I would rehab that Liam horse. He was my project. She said I would have another 6 months to work with him before they would expect him to be a salable commodity. Where I dreaded the thought of losing him I dreaded the thought of not working with him more.

As the days and weeks went on I loved my job and things in my personal life seemed as if I would indeed not be moving back home to Texas. The lease on the house that my roommate and I were renting was about to be up. Taking this job I had taken a pay cut of 12 dollars an hour we couldn’t afford living there anymore. 

As it turned out the intern at the stables was moving back to Germany with her husband and the apartment above the lower barn would be empty. Needless to say a week later we were loading all of our earthly possessions into a PODS container and bringing the bare minimum with use to stay in this tiny apartment with our three cats and one dog.

Life couldn’t be better. That Liam horse was gaining weight and his eyes offered a tiny glimmer of something that resembled a soul.

In a barn where grooming and riding your horse was a sign of love……I foolishly took it upon myself to groom him since the day before he had turned himself into a mud baby. I put his halter on after entering his stall and grabbed a soft brush……I proceeded to then try and escape the clutches of this monster horse that was trying to destroy me….I had never seen such hostility from him. With minor scrapes and bruises our first grooming session was over before it even started. I didn’t tell the owners out of fear of him getting in trouble. It would our little murderous secret. 

Every day after my barn chores were done I would take him for long walks. He would graze and I would just watch him. At this time those disgusting protruding hip bones were not as noticeable and the ribs while still very visible were not as bad. The cuts and scabs all over his neck and shoulders were healing nicely and his hooves were looking much better.
I noticed that while he didn’t too much care for it he would let me pet him only when he was grazing. I decided to attempt grooming him again. I took him out in the field and slowly began to groom him. Only one dodged kick and bite later he decided that the green grass was WAAAY more important than destroying the evil brush or the dimwitted kid attached to the brush……..